“We’re old friends; DMI has taken really good care of us throughout the years”
Nolz Dragline & Construction, Inc. has been
making water go in, under and through project
areas across South Dakota for more than four
decades. Ed and Deanna Nolz started the family
company in 1974 by building holding ponds – or
dugouts – for livestock on farms. Since then, the
firm has evolved to include bridge construction
and box culvert installation. Through it all, the
Sioux Falls business has been dedicated to hard
work – it’s literally in its DNA. Of the company’s
eight employees, six are related.
“Our crew size depends on which of the
grandkids has an activity,” joked Ed. “Not many
companies do what we do because it’s pretty
labor-intensive. We still get out of the machines
and get our hands dirty. It’s what we know.”
While Ed, who is the company’s Treasurer,
isn’t at the jobsite every day anymore, he
and Deanna, President, are still involved. Ed
drives a truck and tackles other small projects,
both in the shop and the field, while Deanna
handles the administrative duties. Their sons,
Dave (Supervisor) and Kevin (Foreman), run the
“We have three generations at a jobsite,” said
Dave. “It’s a true family affair. We wouldn’t have it
any other way.”
In addition to hard work, the family has a
knack for adapting to the changing needs of its
industry. When regulations stymied the popularity
of dugouts, the company switched to bridge
construction, raising the bridges and handling the
dirt work associated with the jobs. As the number
of bridge contracts decreased, competition became
fierce. In response, Nolz Dragline began to focus on
box culvert projects, a niche that it still fills today.
“Box culverts had always been a part of our
business, but once the dugout and bridge work
slowed down, we started doing more of them,”
noted Ed. “We typically can handle the entire
project – water diversion, demo, construction of
the culvert, installation and dirt work – all the
way up to asphalt.”
Outside of the box
Box culverts have become a staple of Nolz
Dragline’s workload because of their increased
popularity. They are more economical than
bridges and have a longer life expectancy.
The most common use of the box culverts that
Nolz builds is to divert water, but the structures
can serve other purposes as well. Small or large,
the company is equipped to handle the job.
“Not every road needs a bridge,” explained
Ed. “A lot of times, we can build a culvert
for a creek or small stream and bury it under
the road. In other cases, we have to put in
some pretty significant structures. They are
cost-effective and will last 100 years.”
One of those large structures was a 13-foot tall
and 18-foot wide, four-barrel culvert installed
near Sioux Falls. The project arose when the
State of South Dakota couldn’t prevent an
existing bridge from sinking. The firm also
accommodated other nontraditional requests.
“That project was one of the largest we’ve
done,” said Ed. “To have four sections right next
to each other is serious. It was an unusually big
culvert. A lot of water moves through there, plus
the farmer who owned the land wanted to be
able to drive his equipment and herd his cattle
Nolz Dragline also recently completed a bike
trail in Sioux Falls that required a tandem of
culverts, one for bikers and one for water.
“The section for the bikers was a little higher
than the one that diverted water to the creek,”
detailed Ed. “We treated the bike culvert with
a graffiti-resistant paint for easy maintenance.
This area has some of the nicest bike trails
around; it’s a big deal here. We’ve also built
underpasses, paths and school crossings along
Sioux Falls’ 26 miles of trails.”
To make the culverts, Nolz Dragline uses
an adjustable form that it sets to the size of
the structure. After excavating the bed for the
culvert, the crew pours concrete into the form
and reinforces it with steel. When the concrete
has cured, the company then fills in around the
culvert, at times with hand shovels, and preps
it for asphalt.
When it comes to purchasing equipment
for their jobs, relationships matter to the Nolz
family. That’s why they trust Diesel Machinery,
Inc., (DMI) and Sales Rep Roger Horstmeyer to
handle their machinery and service needs.
“We’re old friends; DMI has taken really good
care of us throughout the years,” reflected Ed.
“We’ve known Roger for 40 years. If we need
something, we know he can find it. That’s why
he and DMI are usually our first call.”
Komatsu excavators are popular at Nolz
Dragline. It recently purchased a PC360LC
and its fleet also includes a PC290LC and
“We like the PC360 because of its versatility,”
said Dave. “We use different attachments
depending on the job. When we’re removing
a structure, we put a crusher on it, and the
excavator handles it easily. When we’re
moving material with a bucket, the stability
and handling are amazing. It’s very
Nolz Dragline also has a WA320 wheel
loader, which it uses for multiple applications.
“The WA320 is a great loader for us,” shared
Kevin. “We load trucks, move riprap and take
care of snow removal with it in the winter. It has
a lot of power and is reliable.”
Thanks to the dependability of Komatsu
equipment, when Nolz Dragline calls DMI, it
usually isn’t for service.
“The equipment is great; we rarely have an
issue with it,” said Deanna.
In fact, Ed says that DMI typically calls
him to schedule maintenance through
the Komatsu CARE program, which
provides complimentary service for the first
2,000 hours or three years of operation on its
Tier 4 machines.
“We don’t have any mechanics, so the
Komatsu CARE program is very beneficial,”
noted Ed. “They come out at a time that
works for us, and take care of the machine.
This is another example of DMI going above
Bison, ball and the future
It goes without question that the Nolz
family values its multi-generational company.
However, the business isn’t its only passion.
“The company means a lot to us, and to have
three generations working in it is special,”
explained Ed. “We think it’s important to have
the grandkids involved. They work for us, but
they take off for ballgames and practices, and
we’re there to support them, too.”
The family shares another pastime – buffalo.
They operate a farm east of Sioux Falls that is
home to 140 head of buffalo.
“We got into raising buffalo nearly 25 years
ago when I had heart trouble,” said Ed. “We
butcher them for the meat, which is leaner
and healthier than beef. Our whole family eats
bison, and we sell different cuts from our shop.
I think the DMI mechanics like coming here to
service the machines because they can pick up
While the family has several common
interests, the company is the tie that binds. Ed
says that Dave and Kevin will take the reins of
the company when he retires, and he expects
his sons to continue on the path that made it
successful while also calling back to its past.
“When the boys take over, they’ll probably
keep doing culverts, however, we are set up
for expansion,” he noted. “We have all the
equipment and knowledge to build bridges. I
could see them growing and getting back into
those types of projects.”